Japan: A Reinterpretation
I clearly and dearly miss Japan. I spent a short six months there in 2002 working as an English teacher, but at the time I knew nothing of teaching, nothing of salesmanship, and certainly nothing of being an adventurer. I left under a cloud and it has taken me years to emerge from its shadow.I have read numerous books on Japan - Alex Kerr's marvellous 'Lost Japan' and 'Dogs and Demons', 'Looking for the Lost' by Alan Booth, 'The Blue-Eyed Salaryman' by 'Niall Murtagh', as well as a host of novels by Japanese, the best of which has surely been 'The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea' by Yukio Mishima. So I am certainly no beginner to the field.That said, I learnt a tremendous lot from Patrick Smith's fine work, and a lot of it has helped me to see the Japanese from a more informed perspective - for example, the difference between the way the truth is presented and the reality underneath helps to understand the scandal of the reporter recently subjected to inhumane treatment at Narita - though not to condone it in any way.There is too much to summarise, but the crux of Smith's work concerns two aspects - the continued challenge for the Japanese to find themselves, their private selves, not their social selves; and for the Japanese to finally (though this was written before the end of the millennium) shake off their American shackles.The sense of privacy and individuality, and the way that the Japanese suffer from not having either, is detailed at length; the aspect of American interference was, frankly, new to me, and reading it I got the real sense of a tragedy being unfolded before me for the first time in any of the books that I've read.After the war, when Japan at last surrendered, the Americans came in and occupied the country. For the first year at least they opened the country up to the first stirrings of democracy, and the sense of excitement was palpable. No more martial leadership, no more serving the country instead of oneself. But then the Cold War stretched in its icy fingers and the American government suddenly felt worried by their new colony. Would the Japanese go the right way, or would they go Left? Or even go neither, and sit on the fence? Best not to take the chance; so the 'reverse course' was taken, removing the new and reinstalling the old, putting back in place a gang of old war criminals who nonetheless were anti-commie. Japan is still recovering from this debacle, and it is such a shame when one considers the country it could have grown into over the last fifty years.